How lucky will McCaskill be?

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On the roster: How lucky will McCaskill be? - Dems gleeful over Ryan retirement - Switcheroo: Trump said to reconsider Asia trade pact - Cohen rumor mill still churning - Or, as Dana would say, ruh-coon

HOW LUCKY WILL MCCASKILL BE?
Did you read about the Missouri governor’s sex scandal? Whooooooo boy…

This still aspires to be at least a PG-13 political note, but it is a doozy. We’ll let you read it on your own and will not judge you if you do. But suffice it to say that what started out as bizarre and shocking is now lurid and unsettling.

Governor Eric Greitens, as you may already know, was something of an arch type for the kinds of candidates conservative Republicans were hoping to recruit: Military service, business success, fit and unflinchingly conservative.

But, according to his accuser, at the very least a deeply weird person. At worst a criminal. But for right now it doesn’t really matter what happens to Greitens. What may matter, however is how his slow rolling train wreck of a governorship affects his attorney general, who happens to be running for Senate.

Josh Hawley is perhaps an even more perfect specimen of a conservative GOP dream candidate. He’s like Tom Cotton if the Arkansas senator didn’t always look disdainful of the stupidity all around him (not that one could blame him, but still…)

Hawley may tend toward the Paul Ryan school of asceticism both in policy and persona, but with a little help from President Trump he’s not only looking safe for the state’s Aug. 7 GOP primary, but also in very fine fettle to knock out Sen. Claire McCaskill.

McCaskill is mucho overrated, having attained mythical status among Democrats for having won a red state twice. To detract nothing from her very considerable political gifts and acumen, she has benefitted from forces beyond her control in both cases.

She rode the blue wave in 2006 against a hopeless Missouri GOP but Show Me State Republicans outdid themselves in 2012 by nominating a candidate who mused during a televised interview about the nature of “legitimate rape.”

Todd Akin was so bad at running for the Senate that he made Christine O’Donnell look like a smooth operator.

McCaskill is hoping that Greitens will do the trick for her again. And Hawley has only lately come to understand that it may be so.

We have no idea what Greitens will say today in a press conference, but his approach thus far has been Trump-style mortal combat both with his accuser and the Democratic prosecutor who has run up blackmail charges against the governor.

Now, if Greitens leaves today or this week the impact on the race will be marginal. But if he stays it might end up costing Republicans one of the four best pick-up options they have in the Senate this year.

Hawley waited too long to call for Greitens resignation. And while Republicans now have undertaken an effort to force Greitens from office the shoddy spectacle of the whole thing raises too many doubts about an already sketchy GOP brand in the state.

None of that is to say that Hawley can’t win with Greitens rotting in office, but the stench would be quite a lot to contend with.

THE RULEBOOK: THANKS GUYS!
“We may profit by [Great Britain’s] experience without paying the price which it cost them.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 5

TIME OUT: ‘ADHERE TO YOUR PURPOSE’
History: “The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay [on April 12, 1861]. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern ‘insurrection.’ As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between North and South over the issue of slavery had led Southern leadership to discuss a unified separation from the United States. By 1860, the majority of the slave states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. Following Republican Abraham Lincoln’s victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings.”
 
Flag on the play? -
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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41 percent 
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent 
Net Score: 
-12.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Marist College: 42% approve - 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.4 percent
Democratic average: 47.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 5.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.6 points  
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 46% Dems - 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP; Marist College: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; Fox News: 46% Dems - 41% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: BEEP, BEEP
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the impending retirement of House Speaker Paul Ryan, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg facing a vastly under prepared joint Senate committee and the surprising connection between Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Plus, it's Dana's turn to ask Chris questions from the I'll Tell You What mailbag. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

DEMS GLEEFUL OVER RYAN RETIREMENT
Politico: “[Paul Ryan’s] shocking announcement comes in the middle of a critical midterm election cycle in which the House is on the line, something that only bolsters Democrats’ confidence. ‘It is the clearest sign that we’ve seen that the Democrats are going to win,’ said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). ‘I’ve been saying, ‘I don’t quite see the wave, but I’m starting to feel the mist.’ Now I’m starting to see the wave.’ … POLITICO caught Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) coming out of a meeting early Wednesday, and he hadn’t yet heard the news. Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, would become chairman if Democrats were to win back the House — and the point man for any impeachment proceedings against Trump next year. ‘I’ve been reading news stories for the last two days saying that he wasn’t [going to retire],’ Nadler said, expressing surprise at the news. ‘I think it’s a sign that he thinks it’s a good possibility we’ll take back the House.’”

Poll shows Menendez looking strong despite trial drama -
Monmouth University: “Democrat Bob Menendez holds a sizable advantage over Republican Bob Hugin in the 2018 race for U.S. Senate according to an early Monmouth University Poll of all New Jersey registered voters. Menendez starts out the campaign with weak approval ratings in part due to fallout from his recent corruption trial. But these negatives are more than offset by the fact he has a ‘D’ next to his name. Hugin, on the other hand, is known to few New Jersey voters at this stage of the race. Among all registered voters in New Jersey, a majority of 53% say they would vote for the incumbent Menendez and 32% would choose former Celgene Executive Chairman Hugin if the election for senator was today. Menendez is backed by 92% of his fellow Democrats while Hugin is supported by 84% of his fellow Republicans. Independents split 41% for Menendez and 33% for Hugin.”

Trump will head to Texas to fundraise next month -
WaPo: “President Trump is slated to headline a fundraiser to benefit Senate Republicans in Texas on May 14, according to an invitation obtained by The Washington Post, as attention in the party shifts more urgently toward preserving control of the upper chamber of Congress in the midterm elections. The president is scheduled to attend a luncheon in Houston for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, according to the invitation. Contribution levels range from $5,000 per person to $100,000 per couple, the invitation says. Representatives for the NRSC and the White House did not immediately comment. Details of the event were confirmed with The Post by two people with knowledge of it. They confirmed it on the condition of anonymity because it had not been announced publicly.”

Harris to be special guest for Stabenow event -
Politico: “Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will be the special guest at a Michigan fundraiser for Sen. Debbie Stabenow on Saturday, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by POLITICO. Harris' swing through Michigan will also include the state Democratic Party Legacy Dinner in Detroit Saturday evening, where she will also be the special guest. … It's the latest move Harris has made to help a Senate Democratic colleague up for reelection in 2018. Earlier in the week, she sent out a fundraising email to supporters for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) after Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced his candidacy for Senate.”
 
SWITCHEROO: TRUMP SAID TO RECONSIDER ASIA TRADE PACT
WSJ: “A little over a year after withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Donald Trump has asked his top economic advisers to study the possibility of re-entering the trade pact negotiations. Mr. Trump has deputized Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, and Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, to study the possibility of re-entering the TPP if the terms were favorable, the president told a group of lawmakers on Thursday. The president’s new openness toward the TPP, which he had said during his campaign was a deal 'pushed by special interests who want to rape our country,' comes as he is facing criticism from farmers for his escalating trade battle with China. After Mr. Trump took aim at China with new steel and aluminum tariffs, Beijing responded by announcing it would place penalties on a list of agricultural products that would affect swaths of the president’s political base.”

And he wants a re-do on the spending bill - Politico: “A regretful President Donald Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt. ‘My attitude is, your word is your bond,’ House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, in his first public comments on the Trump plan. Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills. The skeptics included the newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump on Wednesday.”

COHEN RUMOR MILL STILL CHURNING
AP: “Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she’d had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid’s parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman… The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. [Dino Sajudin] got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, ‘in perpetuity,’ to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life… The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone. [Michael Cohen,] the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Oh brother, Cohen could mean big trouble for Trump - This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why the FBI’s raid on Cohen’s office was lawful: “Though Cohen does not represent Trump in the [Special Counsel Robert Mueller] investigation, he does represent him in nearly all other legal matters, and his files contain a treasure-trove of confidential and financial materials from and about Trump. Judges are very reluctant to sign search warrants authorizing the seizure of legal files, with two exceptions. The first is the so-called crime/fraud exception. Under this rule, if the client is using his confidential communications with his lawyer to further an ongoing crime, fraud or tort, the communications are not privileged, and evidence of them may be seized. The other exception is the independent criminal activity of the lawyer. That appears to be the case here. It seems that Cohen … did not tell the bank from which he borrowed the funds the true purpose of the loan.” More here.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Pompeo promises to ‘push back’ against Russian aggression - Fox News

Another National Security Adviser leaves White House - Axios

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown agrees to send National Guard to border - LAT

Trump on action toward Syria: ‘Very soon or not so soon at all!’ - AP

Justice Department replies to Nunes - The Hill

AUDIBLE: IT ME

“…[Paul Ryan] comes in and people go, ‘What's that smell?! Yuck!’ And Paul was in his camo stuff and he had deer urine on him, and he said, ‘Well, that'd be me. I have deer urine on.’” – Kansas’ former Governor Sam Brownback sharing a memory about Ryan. Brownback served as a mentor to the soon to be former speaker.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Wonderful first section today! Keep it up. Regarding the disavowal of the Chamber of Commerce, you gave no reason for the act. As a fairly well read follower of the political circus, I don’t understand why…” – Don Kane, North Plains, Ore.

[Ed. note: The U.S. Chamber has from time to time been a boogie man for the populist right. And that’s not without reason since the Chamber, quite transparently, is the voice of Big Business. They fight labor unions tooth and nail, push for lighter regulation (except when it helps its most influential members), adds weight to confirmation efforts and give absolute boat loads of money to mostly Republican candidates. But they tend to fight Bannonite populism, particularly when it seeks tariffs on imported goods, immigration crackdowns and big spending on entitlement programs. So if you are in a competitive Republican primary, it may be more advantageous to say that you are against the Chamber even if that means you don’t get their money.]

“Chris: You are so ‘Right On’ with your April 11 commentary regarding the ineffectiveness of our Congress. Your remarks surely mirror the thoughts and emotions of many, many conservative Republicans. It is tragic that our nation has come to the point where our legislators often act without integrity, often take the easy way out and often operate with only self-interests in mind. I'd love to hear your opinion on what, specifically, could be done to move members of our House of Representatives and Senate to truly think, believe and act with honesty and so, more effectively and sincerely, represent the people they serve. Thank You! Thank You!” – Mick Angel, Waverly, Iowa

[Ed. note: You’re welcome! You’re welcome! But I do think, Mr. Angel that it is not just conservatives who think Congress is just awful. You’ve seen all of the polls that show Congress with an approval rating of something like that of jock itch. Those polls aren’t useful for purposes of analysis because they are counterbalanced by an incumbency rate in the high 90s. People hate Congress but like their congressman or congresswoman. But the number does reflect the degree to which people are absolutely fed up with a government that cannot govern, except for those times when it lurches into some fresh disaster. The members of the two parties disagree on a great deal. But there is little disagreement about the fact that our balance of powers is out of balance.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at 
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

OR, AS DANA WOULD SAY, RUH-COON

WNBC: “A report of a tiger running amok in the streets of Manhattan briefly caused a social media frenzy early Thursday, as reporters scrambled to find photos of the ferocious feline and warn civilians to stay out of the area. Turns out, it was a raccoon. The NYPD got a call about the rogue ‘tiger’ near 166th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem around 8:30 a.m. News 4 crews were at the scene in about 15 minutes reporting no sighting of a tiger nor any police. Shortly thereafter, police confirmed there was indeed an animal sighting, but it was just a raccoon. Hey, they both have black markings on their bodies. Easily confused. Or not.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.